four-thirty p.m: an interstitial time in the living room where the afternoon sunlight is long and seemingly endless as it lulls into the evening. the room is warmed, the yellow couch deepens its glow, recalls midsummer. my body becomes pliable and translatable to myself. among it all there is also the flight of dust.
it’s a good, trustworthy time. a reorientation. impressions and rough cuts of conversation reemerge, and what previously was an incoherent, malnourished mass, now begins to separate itself and seek some loose form. i’m reminded now of the following paragraph from Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack and Honey:
“Paul Valéry, the French poet and thinker … described his perception of first lines so vividly, and to my mind so accurately, that I have never forgotten it: the opening line of a poem he said, is like finding a fruit on the ground, a piece of fallen fruit you have never seen before, and the poet’s task is to create the tree from which such a fruit would fall.”
–perhaps the passage can also also be relevant for writing outside of poetry? a glint of memory appears like the fallen fruit, and then perhaps one must begin following the trace backwards through time, though not so much to cobble together a source/tree, but perhaps simply to see what else is lurking, related yet dormant. why this fruit and why now? something like that…
someone down in the alley is yelling and the pu’er is cold. the back of my hand smells pungently of soy sauce.
but what of this week – ? K came over and showed me how to make gnocchi. some other day S and i had driven east and walked over the rivered and granular sandstone of the headland, picked our way along the coast. banksia, oak and feldspar. one of these words does not belong. but — anyhow. what a startling midwinter’s day. along the rocks i am very happy, so i become playful — or is it the other way around? — a child delighting in their own play. i take pictures, i point left and right, marvelling, sweet, astonished, hopping everywhere. a small bird newborn. it is surely one of my better selves, i think to myself some days later, sitting in bed with S. it is late, very late morning. half-past 11 actually. outside, the day is gusty, while inside, the chill hangs inertly. i am reading over S’ shoulder, some NYT op-ed article about Bernie’s awkward endorsement speech for Hillary. i lose attention, i think of Ferrante, whose earlier novel Troubling Love i had finally just begun to read. i had read her other books more than a year ago, all at once (except for Troubling Love), voraciously and with a greedy necessity i hadn’t felt in a long while — perhaps too long. along with Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Bhanu’s Incubation (plus the archives of her blog) and Lispector, these were my most, perhaps, ‘transformative'(?) and provoking reads of the past year. now, returning to Ferrante i feel the same feral urgings. reading her i become, in some way, my most naked, hostile self, devoid of self-illusions and pretence. and with everything stirring and brewing inside me, it feels almost like an infidelity — reading her next to S, who sits warm beside me in bed, easing safely and blissfully into the late morning. daily repressions become unrepressed and declare, daringly, their importance. unrepressed thoughts about my entire life, about S, my mother, myself, all of it. even as i read on, i feel a vague, unbalancing awareness of the hostility i am capable of. it is dark, primal and exhilarating, making it perhaps all the more dangerous.
i have been sitting here for an hour now(!) it is no longer warm. the writing comes slowly and distractedly.
back to the coastal day. when i first recalled it, i was reminded almost immediately of a passage in Last Words from Montmartre by Taiwanese writer Qiu Miaojin. funnily enough, it was initially that passage which, upon my reading, had reminded me nonspecifically of my own, similar breed of childlike joy, and perhaps in that moment established some neural connection which had then set itself off when i thought of the coast — a recalling in reverse — a ricochet. in the passage she is invigorated and vivaciously at joy upon leaving a film? a play? reading it i feel the bright, unfettered movements of her mind like my own. it is a gently rupturing feeling of being beautiful, too — despite only so temporarily …
much more i intended to write, but perhaps next time. still feeling clumsy writing here, and unsure if i’ll ever get the hang of it. anyway. i’ll finish now with links to some readings (essays/articles/poems, etc.) i’ve enjoyed over this past week or month:
- from Longreads: Why I Hate My Dog by Richard Gilbert
- This Is A Story About Nerds and Cops: Predpol and Algorithmic Policing: an essay by Jackie Wang
- from Asymptote Journal: Poetry from Uljana Wolf (trans. from the German by Sophie Seita)
- these two blog posts (first, second) by Sara Ahmed
- an essay/article by Teju Cole; and lastly
- a poem by Mary Jo Bang
PS. in my previous post i mentioned, rather sloppily near the end, writing and self-transformation. i am disproportionately overjoyed now that i’ve finally stumbled back onto the passage. it was maggie nelson (whose newest book The Argonauts i highly, highly recommend) speaking in an interview:
“When I’m writing, there is this ongoing question of whether or not you can write yourself into more knowledge, understanding, or insight than you actually have. Can writing deliver those things unto you, or is it a kind of chicken/egg thing, that you need to have them before? And nonfictional, autobiographical writing has that chicken/egg question of how a self gets made, moves, or gets constructed. It’s always an issue for me. I’m always interested in if my writing has changed. You sit down to write for the day, and you always end up somewhere a little different. Did something happen to me? Did I write myself through my rage or is it still there? I said in my book Bluets that writing doesn’t really change anything, but I think it’s only in retrospect that you can see how a book changed someone or their thinking. That’s very interesting to me.”